Whew, we finally have our bearings and feel refreshed after 26 hours of travel. Our whirlwind began as a gentle breeze in Saskatoon on Friday after a leisurely breakfast, a slow bus ride to the airport and a quick trip to Calgary. There was an even greater lull as we waited for five hours to pick up Westjet’s flight to Gatwick airport in the UK. The 8 hour flight was more or less uneventful as one hopes long haul flights will be. The feeling of being in a vortex began as we left Gatwick with an abundance of fuzzy headed jet lag, navigated customs with minor delays, piled into a shuttle bus taking us to the train station where we had our first encounter with impeccable UK service people. Our ticket agent was most helpful in choosing the cheapest way to get to our cycling destination and back to London. We boarded the Express shuttle train and had a lovely encounter with an American woman who had houses in France, the UK and who knows where else. As we were dumped out at Victoria station she pointed us to the correct underground to get us on our way. We exited at Euston station and after numerous false starts and false hopes for a WC we found our train heading to Carlisle. Navigating large city railways, undergrounds and the associated, ever present pressing and hurried crowds holds a fascination moderated by anxiety for this prairieboy.
We find a seat and settle in for a four hour train ride to Carlisle, near the Scottish boarder. Our jet lag has settled in for real and provides a smooth, hazy fog through which we catch the occasional awake view of passing sheep, fields, picture perfect quaint villages, streams and a great array of stone and hedge fencing which divide the landscape into smaller and smaller parcels of land. A lovely surprise awaits us as we step out of the train at Carlisle and there right before our eyes is our hotel for the next two nights.
As we enter the hotel I am made aware of a terrible calamity that has attacked local ramps, disabling them for some unknown reason.
Our efforts to cleanse our bodies of jet lag seizes Cathy’s mind and the next thing we know we have purchased tickets to an ABBA impersonation band that is playing in our hotel tonight. We are informed that we will not be able to have the meal but can come to the show. It reportedly starts at 7:00 and is now 6:35 so we rush out and purchase take out food, bring it back to our room and wolf down what we can.
As those of you who know us will attest, our inclination is to arrive at events early. We take a cocktail and check out the room where our show will soon be rocking and rolling.
Our early arrival soon gives way to the realization that everything is running late. So, we wait, sitting on the hotel couch taking turns poking each other in the ribs to wake up so we don’t ruin our jet lag curing sleep. After two hours of head nodding, rib poking and waiting Cathy approaches the nice young man who sold us the tickets and negotiates a refund for the show tickets. We then head to bed and have no idea what an ABBA impersonation band actually sounds like.
After what seems like a drug induced coma we awake to a miracle of a day. Jet lag has lost it’s hold, the sun is shining, the day is warm and glorious, breakfast is substantial and tasty and the young lady serving us is delightful. Cathy has spied ‘black pudding’ on the menu and is determined to give it a try.
I’m not as sure as it looks like the beginnings of a hockey puck just before the final solidifying treatment. We each taste it and guess as to it’s origin (Hmmmm a strong herb masking what: kidney, stomach, intestine??).
We ask our young server what black pudding is made of and she says “Oh I know this, I know this, let me think”. She goes to ask for help and comes back with an answer delivered with a great smile: “I’m not going to tell you. Just enjoy it.” Some moments later as she passes I say to her: “Kidney??” and she smiles and says that it is actually blood. Oh yes of course, I know of ‘blood pudding’ but now I know it can be called ‘black pudding’ as well.
Our morning is then filled with a self guided walking tour of Carlisle. This is an old town with church bells ringing in our ears that have been heard for over 800 years. We enjoyed the beauty and tranquillity (well…aside from the continuous gong of the bells) as we wandered this very old church yard.
Once again I am aware of the incongruity of living in a country celebrating it’s 150th. birthday and places that have well recorded history back to Roman times. Our exploration continues to the local castle, lovely parks with birds and informative museums about Roman ruins, Hadrian’s wall, and local history as well.